The winners of the 2012 Georgia Restaurant Association Crystal of Excellence (GRACE) Awards were announced November 11 at the Loews Atlanta Hotel. The GRACE Awards is the Georgia Restaurant Association’s (GRA) annual black-tie gala event honoring Georgia’s Restaurant Industry. Jenn Hobby Rivera, of Q100 the Bert Show, emceed the event and the Joe Gransden Trio provided live musical entertainment. The GRACE awards are peer-nominated and winners are selected by the GRACE Academy. GRACE winners are presented with crystal works of art created by renowned local artist Hans-Godo Frabel. Also, a portion of the proceeds from this event goes to the Atlanta Community Food Bank.
The 2012 GRACE Awards Winners:
- Lifetime Achievement Award Winner - Herman J. Russell, Concessions International and Paschal's Restaurant: From his purchase of a small parcel of land at age 16 in 1946 to an entrepreneurial legacy starting in construction; Herman J. Russell is a business entrepreneur, civic leader, and philanthropist. Today, H. J. Russell & Company is a diversified organization including Concessions International, LLC with food and beverage units in seven major airports and a partnership in the Paschal’s restaurant on Northside Drive in Atlanta, which is a cornerstone in his Castelberry Hill development project intended to revitalize the southwest edge of downtown Atlanta.
- Chairman's Award Honoree - Janice Reece, The Atlanta Community Food Bank: In her role as marketing and communications director for the Atlanta Community Food Bank, Janice Reece oversees branding, marketing, communications, and special projects. Janice joined the organization more than 22 years ago when she became the first marketing director for Atlanta’s Table, the Food Bank’s prepared and perishable food rescue project. Prior to joining the Food Bank, Janice worked for 20 years in the hospitality industry, the majority of those years in senior management with the thriving Peasant Restaurants. Janice was responsible for the upstart of two of the Food Bank’s longest running fundraisers – Supper Club which recruits leading restaurants to host a monthly dining event, and Simple Abundance which recruits two to three top chefs each month to teach cooking classes.
- Industry Partner of the Year - Perry McGuire, Smith, Gambrell & Russell, LLP: Smith, Gambrell & Russell, LLP was founded in Atlanta, GA in 1893. Perry McGuire, Counsel for Smith, Gambrell & Russell, is part of the founding board of the Georgia Restaurant Association. Perry’s first job was bussing tables at a seafood restaurant in Albany, GA and ever since he has felt a passion for the hospitality industry. Perry serves on the GRA Board of Directors, is co-chair of the Legislative & Governmental Affairs Committee. He was integral in shaping the Inaugural Golf Invitational fundraiser for the GRA-PAC.
- Distinguished Service Award - Guy Thomson, Pitty Pat’s Porch, Proof of the Pudding: With an extensive background in food service operations, marketing, and administration, Guy Thomson brings a unique level of expertise to his organizations. Thomson has served on the Georgia Restaurant Association Board of Directors where he headed up the government affairs committee. This year, he was a great supporter of the Inaugural Golf Invitational benefiting the GRA Political Action Committee (GRA-PAC). He has also served as the Chairman of the Southeastern Chapter of the National Association of Exposition Managers (NAEM) and is a member of the Advisory Board and past Chairman for the Board of the Atlanta Community Food Bank's “Atlanta’s Table.” Currently, Thomson also serves on the board of the Atlanta Convention and Visitors’ Bureau and the board for the Georgia State School of Hospitality.
- The Innovator Award - Linton Hopkins, H&F Bread Co., H&F Bottle Shop: Chef Linton Hopkins opened his first restaurant, Restaurant Eugene, on Peachtree Road in 2004, to critical and media acclaim. Chef Hopkins then opened Holeman & Finch Public House and H&F Bread Co., followed by H&F Bottle Shop. H&F Bread Co. creates wholesome breads and artisanal pastries to sell at local farmers markets and wholesale. H&F Bottle Shop is a service-focused retail experience with bottles of wine, spirits, and house-made mixers and garnishes that you may find in Linton’s restaurants. Hopkins recently received the James Beard Award for Best Chef in the Southeast. He also served on the Chef’s Table panel at the GRA Annual Meeting.
- Restaurateur of the Year Award - Jay Swift, 4th & Swift: Jay Swift has been in the industry since the age of 14. Jay continued his passion for the restaurant industry throughout high school and college, and then enrolled in the American Culinary Federation Apprenticeship Program and graduated first in his class. Upon graduation, Jay worked in his native town of Baltimore, then moved to Boston, New York, and finally made his way down to Atlanta. Jay made the transition from being a chef, to then being a chef and entrepreneur when he opened his restaurant 4th & Swift in the eclectic Old Fourth Ward area. Jay is well known in the Atlanta culinary community for not only his restaurant, but his involvement in Share Our Strength and serving as chef co-chair for the Flavors of Atlanta, a culinary event that benefits the Georgia Chapter of the American Liver Foundation. Swift was also honored with two invitations to cook at the James Beard House in New York City. Swift recently celebrated his 4th year of 4th & Swift.